Closet Memoirs #2: The Kimono Older Than All of Us

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During my pre-New Yorker days as a Starbucks barista, I was latte-ing away when a simple coffee order turned into a side conversation about the lipstick I was wearing. As you could imagine, the idea of anyone TELLING me what to wear (aka abiding by a uniform, following corporate standards, whatever) never settled too well with me; mostly because I was seeing everyone on campus while wearing a pair of KHAKIS and sneakers. It was a big no from me. But, of course… I did it. Non-slip shoes and all. Anyway…! With no jewelry, nail polish, or accessories of any kind allowed to spruce up these barista “outfits”, lipstick was my only weapon.

The eccentric woman who complimented my lipstick was still chatting away with me as I pretended to wipe tables around her while my friend covered for me on bar. I was drawn to her as she was to me. We couldn’t stop talking. After a bit of chit-chat, we got into the career conversation. I told her my major and she replied with a rather unexpected answer. She was a fashion designer! As a 19yearold sophomore looking for an internship, this was music to my ears. I wanted to do something fun. Something different. Something that wasn’t just handed to me by an advisor or planned out through a pre-set program because of where I went to school. I wanted the connections and the unique experience. I couldn’t even believe how perfect this seemed. This certainly spiced up my afternoon Starbucks shift.

That weekend, I skipped the usual Cinco de Mayo festivities to attend a more formal interview with her. We sat and sipped tea in the Starbucks (ironically) below the Providence Biltmore and I had never felt more fancy or excited. My mind was reeling as she gave me the position on the spot and we set our dates to begin working together.

“Easy!” I thought. She had a fashion show coming up in about a month that she needed some major help with. Things were all lined up and I was more excited than ever.

School ended. Summer began. And my little blue VW Bug and I were commuting to Providence a few days a week for this internship. I felt like quite the adult. Now normally, here’s where the dishing would begin. However, for the sake of karma, privacy and using the internet for good, not evil… we’re going to keep this one light. Lets just say that from day one of this internship, it was not a thing like I expected. I was a chauffeur, an errand runner, a “slave to fashion” as some would say. Except for the fact that I didn’t touch or see a single garment until the day of the fashion show; which turned out to be absolute chaos and was hosted in a sticky nightclub with probably less than ten attendees. It turned out to be a bit of a crazy ride, and I wasn’t the only one. Two other interns had been hired from my school as well. The three of us were caught in this crazy whirlwind of mixed up tasks, strange hours and bizarre run-ins. We hosted model castings in tattoo shops and spent more time running errands and rummaging through emails than anything else; all while trying to work on a social media strategy with no WiFi and all taking turns for the single, blue Ethernet cord in the dining room.

Needless to say, there were tons of rules being violated and ends of the deal that were not kept. We were in an extremely unprofessional environment, and after about a month of this, we spoke up. My school urged us to stop and I found myself on the phone with the Dean telling me I was not allowed to return to this designer’s home and to send in my resignation immediately; necessary, but disastrous right? I thought so too. Until the universe proved me wrong.

Now, I was left with no internship and a gap in my credits (this really did not sit well with me). The whole reason I did this was to get a head start and now I found myself on the borderline of a setback. Not a chance. The Dean told me they would help me find a new internship but their offers weren’t for me. Again, I was trying to aim outside the box here.

My mind wandered back to some of my favorite places around town. I wanted to find something exciting and still in the city. Something of interest. Since my first year at school, my favorite hobby was to wander around Downtown Providence and explore. Coffee shops, boutiques, galleries and especially the vintage shops. One, in particular, was my favorite.

Carmen & Ginger was a teeny little vintage goods store inside of the historical Providence Arcade. No, this was not the kind of arcade you’re thinking of. There was no pinball or Pac-Man. The Arcade was a historical landmark and one of the first shopping malls in the country that was now home to unique little shops and even had a couple floors of micro-lofts where people could live. It was a gorgeous building with a glass atrium and a historic feel like no other. I loved walking through there more than anywhere else in Providence. On countless occasions I would pop into Carmen & Ginger and rustle through every little item, buying nothing due to my “poor college student” budget. On a more than a few occasions I would even ask if they were hiring, needed help, etc. The answer was always the same. A “no”, which I totally understood based on their perfectly efficient way of running the store . I knew I probably couldn’t be of much help anyway. However, I was particularly drawn to this place. Every inch of the store was tastefully filled with vintage goodies and was color coordinated with the signature C&G colors: orange and teal. I just felt good being in there.

Anyway, back to the real story. In a state of desperation to find a replacement internship, I couldn’t help but think about Carmen & Ginger as an option. I wanted to work there so desperately. As I sat and thought a bit, I remembered that a Starbucks coworker of mine had helped out there with some intern duties a while back. I reached out to her immediately and sure enough, she kindly connected me with the owner. Christine, the shop owner, invited me in to chat.

“FINALLY!” I thought.

On that day, I remember waking up with such excitement, put on my favorite outfit and polished myself up to look my absolute best for this interview. I needed to land this spot. After tossing some quarters into a dysfunctional Providence meter. I made my way into the Arcade and sat at the shop counter with Christine as we talked for a bit (with just enough time left before the parking meter ran out). I was honest with her and told her about the bizarre situation I was coming out of. It felt more like talking to a new friend than having an interview. She ended the conversation with a warm welcome and invited me to begin helping out at the shop a few days a week for the remainder of the summer to fulfill my internship requirements. I was ECSTATIC as I ran back out to my car, praying I put enough quarters in to avoid a ticket. Everything was all good and we (my car and I) blasted the happiest music the whole ride home. I couldn’t wait to begin.

The next couple of months were great. In between tasks, we would talk endlessly about life, horoscopes, vintage and all of the similar interests we had. On the days Christine wasn’t there, her other shop worker, Val would come in fully equipped with the same enthusiasm and exciting conversation. They were the best part of coming into work each day. Christine would share stories about her days living in New York, adventuring around, running into celebrities like Andy Warhol. Her stories amazed me. She lived the life I had aspired to grow into someday. New York had always been on my radar, so hearing her talk about it made me light up inside.
As my internship came to a close, I left with a lot of things. Sure, I left with a handful of employee discounted purchases and some new items to add to my closet; but most importantly I left with a whole lot of inspiration and knowledge about the vintage world. It was great to meet people who shared the same passion and appreciation for things of another time and understood that each piece carried a story along with it. Although, I do believe one of the most important things I left with was an amazing vintage kimono Christine had given to me as a parting gift.

This piece was as vintage as it gets… the kimono was from way before our time. Questionably even an item of the 1930s. It was magical. Kimonos were my favorite trend at this time. I wore them all summer long over dresses and with different top and pant combos and would lounge around the house in them as if I was some sort of golden age film star. However, this was the most important one I was adding into my collection. I don’t know where it originally came from, who wore it, or what its story was. Maybe it was worn by a movie star, or backstage in the dressing room of a Broadway star… I will never know, but that makes it more exciting. The fragile silk was carefully taken care of all these years and is in great condition for an 80 somethingyearold article of clothing. It has a few holes, but its colors remained vibrant with gorgeous details and embroidered crescent moons. It has become one of my most prized possessions, all thanks to a bad situation that turned into a very special opportunity. This single piece is now tied to some of my fondest memories.

 

 

If you got to the bottom… thank you for reading! Please hit “follow” on the bottom right hand corner for updates! Keep scrolling to read my previous post about a very special leopard coat.

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Closet Memoirs #1: Rubio and The Leopard Coat

People always said I should do this. Saying “You should really write a book about this someday.” or “You should really start writing this stuff down.” after every ridiculous story  exchange. I always smiled and nodded until one day… I actually did put pen to paper and start jotting down these random occurrences, encounters or moments of magic. Sometimes it’s crazy how easily we can forget the little bits of magic that surface from time to time, especially while living in a city like New York. Our geographic location alone just heightens and multiplies ALL bases for storytelling. Each time you step outside, you really never know what you’re in for. Exciting for most, stressful for some but the moments you experience here are unlike anything else.

Sometimes in the chaos of it all, I can’t help but think I am stuck inside of some hidden camera Rom-Com just waiting for everything to make the slightest bit of sense someday. But until then… the least we can do is take these moments and learn a thing or two from them. Reflect on them. Appreciate them. Grow from them as best as we can.

I recently had someone explain to me that they “appreciate” the fact that I see life this way. (Which was incredibly flattering.) That they really enjoy the view I have on the world and the chaos of New York. Seeing glitter in the grungy-ness and the humor in the insanity. I can’t help but laugh sometimes and can only hope that this perspective on the little things in life can allow you to read into the good things a little more and keep those thoughts and moments tucked away in a special part of your brain. It’s fun to look back on the “movie moments” that make up your story aka your LIFE.

Welcome to Closet Memoirs, the idea that has been dancing around in my mind for most of 2018. A collection of thoughts, experiences, photos and special tales of the stories behind the pieces we live our lives in.

To those who know me and have experienced this… a simple outfit compliment will usually turn into some elaborate 5-minute story about how the piece came to be mine. (Sorry and thank you to all who have been stuck in one of those conversations.) Anyway, the point being, these tangents only sparked due to the excitement I felt inside, so why not just take it and run with it? Fashion, clothing, thrifting, etc. is not necessarily something everyone thinks very far into. But if you know me, you know I think too far into just about everything. However, in this case… I guess it pays off!

This whole concept really sunk in on a cold day back in January. I was tiredly trudging back to my neighborhood after spending 6 hours in a car from back to back weekend work shoots. I decided to wander off my usual course for a breather and a stroll past my old apartment just 4 blocks north. Across from what used to be my old entryway stood a man and a rack full of clothes. This is not an unusual sight for New Yorkers, and I typically would walk by without thought.

I walked by mindlessly but then quickly shifted my little black boots into reverse as I saw a fuzzy leopard sleeve poking out from the rack. I had been on the hunt (no pun intended) for one of these for YEARS now. As I bee-lined for this coat, the man turned on his usual sales pitch. But the thing was… I didn’t need a pitch. I was already sold.

“How much?” I asked as he was somewhat humorously startled by my quick decision (a little eager, I know).

He laughed and told me “$25” which made me even MORE sold on the idea.

“I’ll take it.” Was the immediate response.

He proceeded with “Well, mi amour don’t you want to try it on?”

But I just knew it would fit. (Plus it was too cold to even swap jackets for a second). As we completed the exchange (which took all of 90 seconds) a conversation sprung up about the obvious: why I was here in this neighborhood, if I lived here, the usual. He introduced himself as Rubio and we shook hands. He had soft blue eyes and a warm sense of humor. (No this is not a love story, he was just a kind and approachable man.)

A conversation of coats quickly spun into one about the area and the gentrification of the Manhattan neighborhood I have called home for almost 2 years now. (Which is nothing compared to those who have spent their whole lives here.) It has been a hot topic here for quite some time and Rubio explained his perspective on all of it to me. By the end of this conversation, it wasn’t about the coat anymore. It wasn’t about the sale. It was an exchange of cultural upbringings, opinions, change and understanding. It was a peace offering between people of two different worlds who were now coexisting in New York City, appreciating each other in a rather uncommon moment.  Rubio explained to me that we are lucky to call this place home and really helped me view the situation with new understanding.

I walked away with a little more sparkle inside. Feeling good about the conversation, the momentary friend and of course… the brand new coat. Well, brand new to me anyway. This little leopard had been loved in another life before me. This label-less coat had a hole in the lining, a few missing buttons, a rip in the seam but it didn’t matter to me. Its flaws were a part of its story (same goes for humans btw). I knew that with a little TLC these things would not be a problem. This one of a kind vintage coat, worn by  God knows who… was now mine and its story was living on into another life and has already been the subject of several stories, photos, cold weather memories and most importantly; this first blog post. If you let them, these clothes can be a lot more than just something you put on your back. Dressing yourself is part of every single person’s daily routine. So why not make it a little more meaningful?

Thanks, Rubio.

 

*If you got through that novel and are still here (thank you)… WELCOME! This is just the beginning. Please, leave a comment, send me a note… let me know what you’d like to hear about next. Do you have a question, an idea,  topic, or piece you are curious to hear about? I’m all ears.*

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